Thursday, January 22, 2009

L'antimatiere by Les Nez: fragrance review

In "The Fisherman and his Soul" by Oscar Wilde a fisherman falls in love with a mermaid and eschews everything, even his very soul to go and live with her under the sea. After proposals of wisdom and wealth in order to re-unite with his immortal part fail to entice him back to land, he returns to see the beautiful legs of a dancing girl.

If you have wondered how it would be even possible to make love to a mermaid, then L'antimatière might provide an olfactory accompaniment to the age-old enigma.

"Thou shall not cheat the customer with a misleading headnote", the motto behind the concept, should have been the cardinal rule of perfume making. Alas, to the chagrin of myriads it is not usually so. All too often there is some initial first impression when testing fragrances which sways our best intentions and make up deposit our hard-earned cash for something that will disappoint once we fully test it at home (but it's too late by then!) Les Nez decided to abandon top notes completely for their L'antimatière. This is the reason for the initial shock which might leave you with mouth open, as the fragrance goes from alcohol to seemingly nothing. Yet give it a couple of minutes and it starts to "bloom" in ways unexpected.

L'antimatière means "anti-matter" which "is the extension of the concept of the antiparticle to matter, where antimatter is composed of antiparticles in the same way that normal matter is composed of particles"[...] the apparent asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the visible universe one of the greatest unsolved problems in physics".
In archaeology, we are accustomed to bagging every trace found in an effort to protect remains from cosmic radiation, much like the forensics experts do to protect evidence from physical tampering. I have never really detected any ill-effect caused by cosmic radiation although I have seen plenty due to mishandling, but this is another point for another day. Suffice to our discussion is that L'antimatière acts as anti-matter: It's a game of prestidigitation!

L'antimatière belongs to the Les Nez (parfums d'auteurs) line, a niche brand from Klingnau, Switzerland founded by perfume lover René Schifferle, and was composed in 2006 by Isabelle Doyen, along with the rest of the triptych, Let me Play the Lion and The Unicorn Spell. She presents it thus: "An invisible ink that leaves a trace, foreseen rather than felt, persistent yet whispered, of creased bed linen wandering along your curves".

From the slightly Band-Aid smelling opening to the mineral quality that reminds me of some highly-diluted vetiver varieties, L'antimatière is on the whole the closest thing I have ever smelled to natural ambergris tincture and it shares the sensuous undercurrent that belies the process of formation of that priceless, rare ingredient. Natural ambergris has a wonderful tinge of saltiness, almost brine-y, encompassing elements of skin-like musky tones, and even a subtly sweetish accent. Of all the natural animalic ingredients it is the one which could be worn neat and the only one which can be harvested in a completely ethical (non animal-cruel) way, as whales resurgitate the material in the sea where it floats for years before being deposited on the shores. L'antimatière, although not divulged as such, must surely contain copious amounts of this precious ingredient, as the comparison with the natural is so telling. The unexpected lack of top notes means that it swiftly goes for the memory of times past instead of the flirting stages.

Due to its very nature of subtly caressing, smoothing out, suave character, it might be very discreet to the point of practically undetectable to noses accustomed to stronger commercial perfumes or fans of concentrated "full bodied" fragrances in the old style; and spritzing instead of dabbing is highly recommended anyway. It also tends to have a different nuance according to the spot applied, which I am hypothesizing is its reactioon to the natural warmth of the skin. This element might discourage the majority from splurging on a full bottle, and indeed I am fairly certain that Les Nez issued it as a dare. However, for all that, for anyone who has smelled real ambergris and is appreciative or anyone who hasn't and is curious, this is emninetly sample-worthy!

L'antimatière is available as a 50ml/1.7oz Eau de Toilette, directly from the Les Nez website, through Aus Liebe zum Duft or Luckyscent.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Les Nez fragrances, Amber & Ambergris.

In the interests of disclosure I got sent a carded sample of each fragrance from Les Nez as part of their sample giveaway upon launching Manoumalia.

Photo: Bob Carlos Clarke exhibition via 20ltd..


  1. Anonymous15:25

    All right, you have me wondering about THIS one now!
    I have never been much of a skin-scents' advocate, even though I have a couple in my collection like everybody else, but never having the opportunity to test ambergris in the raw, so to speak, I am intrigued.

    Do you find it too animalistic? I am not sure I could "do" with a feral fragrance as my environment is not appreciative and I have to be around people the greater part of the day.

  2. Okay, I admit that I have a bottle of this. I have not worn it in quite a while. It is very subtle, and I find myself straining my nostrils to smell it. But it is there, swirling around me like a diaphonous veil.


  3. I am very intrigued about the Les Nez line now!

  4. Sue,

    no, it's not feral. On the contrary it's so subtle I doubt anyone who doesn't come up very, very close is able to detect it as such (unless you use half the bottle of course!). It's just...intriguing I guess. It's hard to describe as it's so subdued. But I like its subtlety and salty touch.

  5. R,

    your description is very apt: I find that I have to sniff my wrists as well and it's like a veil. It's interesting to catch whiffs of it when one is in action and feeling it ever so subtly rise.
    I don't think it would be commercially very viable though.

  6. K,

    all the scents in the line are interesting (with various degrees of artistry and success). I think they're sample worthy and they have a sample programme on the site (linked in the review)

  7. I love that you said it had a band aid opening... I can imagine exactly what that smells like... Sounds intense and subtle at the same time.

  8. Oh, good, J! I thought it might be a little distracting. :-P
    But it does; it's weird and sensuous at the same time.


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